“It’s the plumber, he’s come to fix the sink!”


That is the punch line to one of my dad’s favorite jokes. I think. I can never quite remember the joke, I know it involves a naughty parrot, an old woman, and of course, a plumber. Even though I constantly fail to recall the correct details of the joke, I still laugh every time I hear him tell it and I do believe he does the best parrot impression I’ve ever heard. (Second only, perhaps, to Mr. Gilbert Godfrey.)

My dad, Don, is a plumber/pipefitter/welder. He’s many other things and can pretty much do anything but that is what he was certified to do (this picture is actually him receiving his high school diploma, I don’t have one from..plumbing school?…is there such a thing? Good thing we’ll find out later on…this was close enough though) and has worked most of his life doing. Living with three women with extremely curly hair and lots of it, I feel it was the perfect job for him.

As a “plumber’s daughter” (let’s not confuse that with “coal miner’s daughter”, a tragic but great film about the country star Loretta Lynn played by Sissy Spacek. Man is Tommy Lee Jones mean, and he looks terrible as a redhead…I wonder who would play me in “The Plumber’s Daughter…or “The Butcher’s Wife”…I think that’s already a movie though, I’d have to come up with a new title…sorry getting off topic here.) I grew up knowing a couple of things like, always get the hair out of the drain after you shower, if the toilet is running then take the lid off and pull the black ball thingy up…I said a COUPLE things ok? I don’t pretend to know all the technical plumbing jargon, that’s what he’s (cough…my guest bathroom toilet still isn’t working…cough) here for! But I decided I would do a little interview of this plumber I know and love, to see what perhaps I don’t know, and to give you some helpful tips as well. So here’s how the interview went…(my comments are in red, not that its hard to figure out)

1. What kind of schooling is required to become a plumber?
The standards vary, depending on who and where. They can range from none at all for the good ol’ boy who picks up a pipe wrench, to the journeyman, then master plumber who serves a lengthy apprenticeship. 
2. List five preventative things/common mistakes you can do at home to avoid having to call a plumber.
  • Don’t pour grease down the kitchen drain.
  • A garbage disposal is not a trash can. When your waste disappears, it’s still in the pipes. Be generous with rinse water.
  • Turn off the water before you take your faucets apart.
  • You can’t stop the valve handle from leaking by closing it tighter. you CAN wreck the valve.
  • If you have a septic tank, pour a little brewer’s yeast (or Rid-X) down the toilet once a month. You may NEVER need to have it pumped.
Most of this information would have been useful to me….YESTERDAY!”…(sorry shameful wedding singer quote) but seriously, now I’m really worried about what’s in my garbage disposal pipes…shouldn’t they have named it something else then so we weren’t confused!?” 
3. What’s the best home remedy for unclogging a drain?
See 1 & 2 above. If you slip up and the clog is fairly close to the drain, an ordinary toilet plunger might do the trick. 
4. Is it true that store-bought drain cleaners are actually harmful for your pipes?
No, usually not, but they may not work, either. 
5. Is there any way to change the water pressure in your home?
There may be issues with pipe size or municipal pressures. If you have a well, you might increase the tank pressure; if you have city water, a booster pump might work (probably expensive).
And first you’d have to find out what a booster pump even is…there’s that jargon again… 
6. What’s the most common problem you’ve had to fix as a plumber?
First of all, a pipefitter could take a swing at you for calling him a plumber. Unfortunately, I HAVE strayed over the years, so; faucet washers.
Oops. I guess it’s like when I asked my retired Navy officer Grandpa about his time on “the boat” and was sternly corrected, “It’s a ship.” You think it’s a coincidence that the plumber, er I mean, pipefitter, is his son? Me neither. Ok so disregard me calling him a plumber in the first few paragraphs. And no, his butt crack is never hanging out of his pants…well not never, nobody’s perfect.

 7. Do you often use math on the job?
You know that trig/calculus class you’re sure you’ll never use unless you become a rocket scientist? Pipefitters use it, too. You can’t calculate the template for a pipe saddle, find the length of a side of a right triangle, or calculate a rolling offset on a pipe run, unless you can use trig. Who knew? 
8. What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had on the job?
You would think it was the time I was eye-level with a gushing sewer pipe (UGH!), or perhaps those halcyon days spent inhaling the fragrance of a clogged grease trap, but actually the most frustrating thing ever was trying to solder a copper pipe under a sink with just the slightest water leak inside it. It can’t be done. Makes a grown man cry.
I was sure he’d mention the time he was fixing a giant industrial dishwasher and some idiot closed it and turned it on, scalding him (still has scars from the hot water) and nearly killing him. Guess soldering a wet pipe IS the worst. (Note to self; look up “soldering”…just kidding, I know that one.)
9. What are the benefits/drawbacks to being part of a union?
Say what you will about union corruption or work ethic- where unions are strong, wages are higher- for both union AND non-union workers. 
10. What advice would you give to someone looking to become a plumber or pipe fitter?
Get a real job? Seriously, they are both honorable professions that will NEVER become obsolete, and pay better than many blue-collar trades. Stay in school, take your math seriously, and remember don’t bite your fingernails.
HAHA don’t bite your nails…but seriously, ewwww….
Well, there you have it folks. I hope you learned a few things, I know I sure did. Perhaps I should make this a little series on the blog, we’ve got insurance agents, bank tellers, butchers, aestheticians, dental assistants, personal tutors, we could learn all sorts of things!

8 thoughts on ““It’s the plumber, he’s come to fix the sink!”

  1. If you ever need to solder pipes with a small leak (question 8), shove a hunk of bread up the pipe as a temporary dam and solder your joint. Then the bread gets soggy, dissolves, and washes away after you’ve made the joint. It’s food safe on potable water. Nice interview, thanks for sharing.

  2. Love this! Bill Gehring Sr. didn’t call me “the Weldor’s wife” for nothing. Number 6 is especially true. One time a non-Union HVAC manager who wasn’t familliar with the trade made the snide comment to my hubby, “so what are you a glorified plumber or something?” Whew was he angry about that one! Thankfully like your daddio he is familiar with both when we’ve need it, but there is definitely a difference.
    Good advice B. Smith, it must run in the family. 😉

  3. Thanks, Hon, you almost make me sound smart. I didn’t mention the dishwasher incident because it was my own stupid mistake. Safety protocols dictate that you lock out that type of machine before working on it; I was just going to make a “quick” adjustment and didn’t lock out the dishwasher, otherwise the kitchen worker wouldn’t have been able to activate it. Embarrassing but instructive.
    P.S. I’ll be over to fix your toilet today.

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